More than a year after Bloemfontein Courant visited the old dilapidated backpackers building at the bottom of Naval Hill, residents in the area are at their wits’ end regarding the living conditions of the squatters and how the situation is affecting them.
Residents in the area spoke to Bloemfontein Courant on condition of anonymity. One resident said it’s been going on for a couple of years. “We have complained over time to various departments as well as to the police, yet nothing has come of it.”
She explained that many times during the night she hears the helpless cries of females. It also appears as if squatters have been occupying various spots on Naval Hill and it seems as if they cannot be removed. “I have seen how they knock down trees to use as wood and burn plastic, which is toxic for us living here.” According to her the whole setup there is unhygienic for people.
Another resident who lives at one of the complexes close to backpackers building, said it is extremely unfair to be paying to live in her flat while she is subjected to the smell of smoke and the noise of the squatters every night. “They use part of the veld as a toilet, so it smells terrible. I also feel so uncomfortable when standing at my garage as they shout at me to get my attention for money or water, or simply just stare at me.”
She asked how can this be happening at the foot of a tourist attraction; it is so messy, smells like dagga and the squatters can be heard coughing nonstop.
Another resident raised questions such as what about the safety of the people in the vicinity and complained about the continuous fires being made in the veld. He said that four men have been living there, and now there are also women and children. He is in agreement with residents saying that they have called the police and tried to speak to the municipality but nothing has been done as yet.
Squatters have told Bloemfontein Courant previously that they have nothing to do with the crimes being committed in the area. The said that although the police always harass them, most of them are very peace loving citizens.
“We are not criminals. We are a group of normal people with normal aspirations and normal challenges.”
They have also blamed the municipality and the department of social development for the conditions in which they were forced to live in.
“All we want is proper housing and job opportunities to prove ourselves to society. Some of the guys are plumbers and some are builders. We just need to be given a chance,” one of the squatters said.
Bloemfontein Courant asked the municipality for comment, but no response was received by the time of going to press.